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Study: Tech salary gap widens for women over time

Women and men who work in the technology industry earn about the same when they are starting their careers, but the salary gap widens as they age, according to new research.

3 min read
Women and men who work in the technology industry earn about the same when they are starting their careers, but the salary gap widens as they age.

That is the conclusion of a survey of 106,133 information technology professionals polled by Minneapolis-based career portal Techies.com. The study crunched self-reported salary data on 87,075 men and 19,058 women, from entry-level to executive technology positions in 39 major job markets throughout the United States.

Women with up to five years of experience are paid almost exactly the same as their male counterparts in most technology jobs, the study found. But women with 10 or more years of experience earned an average of 9 percent less than male workers with equivalent experience and skills.

It is impossible to say why male techies earn more than their female counterparts as both groups gain experience; statisticians did not inquire about the potential salary drag of extended maternity leaves, salary negotiating skills, job tenure or alternative compensation such as stock options. The survey only included base salary, not so-called at-risk compensation such as options or performance bonuses.

Shuman Lee, analytics director for Techies.com, emphasized that the study is nothing more than a "static snapshot" of the technology industry's work force, and it does not reflect changes brewing beneath the surface.

"Right now people with three year's experience don't have a gender gap, and people with 10 years experience do have a gap," he said. "But seven years from now, those less experienced employees will have 10 years experience as well and quite likely will continue to have comparable pay levels."

The survey also found that the red-hot tech sector, which is struggling to fill positions even as the broader economy cools, is closer to closing the salary gap than most industries. But by no means has it eliminated pay bias.

Overall, female techies earn an average 92 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn, averaging $5,071 less in yearly pay than men. For full-time professionals in all U.S. industries, women earn less than 75 percent of what men earn, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"The virtual pay parity among less-experienced workers in the Techies.com study may dispel some of the myths about women in technology," said Dan Frawley, chief executive of Techies.com. "The tremendous demand for technology professionals is proving to be a great equalizer for women in the workplace."

But strong demand does not necessarily guarantee higher salaries for women. The survey found that data management--one of the hottest and most lucrative niches of the tech sector--offered the most disparate salaries for men and women. Female data managers earn only 84 percent of male earnings, with an average salary difference of $12,500.

The survey also found a relatively wide gap for men and women in the South and in Texas--an emerging and inexpensive haven for technophiles. Female techies in Texas earn 89 percent of men's salary. In the South, women tech workers earn 90 percent of men's salary.

The pay gap was highest in the Pacific Northwest, home of Microsoft, Amazon.com and a growing number of Internet start-ups and computer programming ventures. Female techies in Washington state, Oregon and Idaho earn only 86 percent of what their male counterparts earn.

Pay was most equitable in large U.S. cities, such as New York and San Francisco, where women techies on average earn 96 percent of what men earn. Number crunchers at Techies.com were also surprised by the sliver of a salary gap in Denver and Salt Lake City, where women technocrats earn 98 percent of what their male counterparts earn.